The Evening Standard

“Lafferty rises to the legend’s challenge…”

Tuesday 23rd October, 2001

Married to Laurence Olivier, scorned by Kenneth Tynan, idolized by millions for her starring role in Gone With The Wind, yet cruelly ravaged by manic depression, the turbulent life of Vivien Leigh offers much to those who like their nostalgia richly laced with tragedy. Actress Marcy Lafferty faithfully recreates an era when an actress’s sex appeal could be measured by the length of her heels and the stylish tilt of her hat, and demonstrates how the seductiveness of film made life itself seem like an extended screenplay.

Indeed, you suspect that the carefully honed artifice of Leigh’s personality makes her the perfect subject for a staged reincarnation. The sense that she never played herself, but was instead following a script on how to be a screen goddess, is borne out by Lafferty’s performance – whether it is in her designed-for-close-up poses, her wide-eyed little girl enthusiasms, or her attention-grabbing sing-song voice.

Cynics who are wondering whether the 21st century really needs this Vivien Leigh tribute may be intrigued to know that another one-woman show, Vivien: The Triumph and Madness of Vivien Leigh, has just finished playing in San Francisco. Leigh’s little-girl mannerisms and fiddle-dee-dee fixations may seem dated, but her burning ambition coupled with the calamitous effects of her mental instability have an enduringly contemporary resonance, and at this final “press conference” in 1960, Lafferty charts her giddy rise and her tempestuous decline.

Director John Edw. Blankenchip’s design, with its tastefully carved furniture, single white rose, and flattering lighting, seems merely an extension of Leigh’s personality – rightly so, because for all its fascinating and witty historical detail, this show lives or dies on the ability of the actress playing Leigh to eclipse everything around her. Lafferty rises to the legend’s challenge, demonstrating Leigh’s fragile philosophy, that poise and charm can lift her above the emotional detritus of the stories she tells.